Chief Petty Officer Insignia

Good Conduct Variation


Chief Petty Officer is the seventh enlisted rank in the U.S. Navy and U.S. Coast Guard, just above Petty Officer First Class and below Senior Chief Petty Officer, and is a non-commissioned officer. They are referred to as Chief in most circumstances.

Unlike Petty Officer First Class and lower ranks, advancement to Chief Petty Officer not only carries requirements of time in service, superior evaluation scores, and specialty examinations, but also carries an added requirement of peer review. A Petty Officer First Class can only advance after review by a selection board of serving Senior and Master Chief Petty Officers.

Advancement into the Chief Petty Officer grades is the most significant promotion within the enlisted Navy ranks. At the rank of Chief, the sailor takes on more administrative duties. Their uniform changes to reflect this change of duty, becoming similar to that of an officer, albeit with different insignia. Sailors in the three Chief Petty Officer ranks also have conspicuous privileges such as separate dining and living areas. Any Navy ship of sufficient size has a room or rooms that are off-limits to anyone not a Chief (including officers) except by specific invitation. In Navy jargon, this room is called the Chief's Mess, or tongue in cheek, the "goat locker." The United States Navy (USN) is the branch of the United States armed forces responsible for naval operations. In navy jargon, the goat locker is a lounge, sleeping area, or galley onboard a naval vessel which is reserved for the exclusive use of Chief Petty Officers.

Chief Petty Officers serve a dual role as both technical experts and as leaders, with the emphasis being more on leadership as they progress through the CPO ranks. Like Petty Officers, every chief has both a rate (rank) and rating (job, similar to an MOS in other branches). A chief's full title is a combination of the two. Thus, a Chief Petty Officer, who has the rating of Machinist's Mate would properly be called a Chief Machinist's Mate.

Each rating has an official abbreviation, such as MM for Machinist's Mate, BT for Boiler Technician, or YN for Yeoman. When combined with the petty officer level, this gives the short-hand for the chief's rank, such as BMC for Chief Boatswain's Mate. It is not uncommon practice to refer to the chief by this short hand in all but the most formal correspondence (such as printing and inscription on awards). Mostly, though, they are simply called "Chief," regardless of rating.

The rating insignia for a CPO is an eagle with spread wings above three cheverons. The cheverons are topped by a rocker that goes behind the eagle (or "crow," as it is commonly called). This is used on the Dress Blue uniform. On all over uniforms, the insignia used is the one that has become universally accepted as the symbol of the Chief Petty Officer. This is a fouled (entwined in the anchor chain) gold anchor superimposed with a silver "USN."

Collectively, officers and chiefs are referred to as "khakis." This is a reference to the color of their most common shipboard "working" uniforms, and is a direct contrast to those in paygrades E-6 and below (or, blueshirts).

In some contexts, Chief Petty Officer can refer to the class of non-commissioned ranks of this rank and higher:

  • Chief Petty Officer
  • Senior Chief Petty Officer
  • Master Chief Petty Officer